Friday, May 29, 2015

Texas Tribune: After Error, Hays County Groundwater Bill is Revived by Matthew Watkins May 28, 2015

State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, on the floor 
of the House on May 15, 2015.

 Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from state Sen. Donna Campbell.

A bill designed to protect western Hays County residents' water wells received a surprising, last-minute reprieve Thursday night — after a procedural error killed the legislation the day before. 

The reprieve, announced seconds before the House adjourned for the day, left the bill's author, Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, stunned and crying at his desk. About a dozen members gathered around him, hugging and congratulating him. At one point, they all bowed their heads and prayed. 

Isaac said in an interview afterward that the legislation, House Bill 3405, was the most important bill he'd filed this session. It would expand the jurisdiction of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Groundwater Conservation District to include water wellfields owned by Houston-based company Electro Purification, which plans to pump up to 5 million gallons of water per day from western Hays County. The company plans to provide the water to Buda and surrounding areas. 

The company's fields aren't currently under the jurisdiction of any groundwater district, and residents were worried that so much pumping would cause their own wells to run dry. Once news spread of Electro Purification's plans, a passionate group of activists mobilized and pushed for Isaac's legislation. 

On Wednesday night, the bill appeared to die. State Rep. Mary Gonz├ílez, D-El Paso, had raised a point of order — a parliamentary maneuver that involves asking whether a House rule has been violated that would kill the bill. The point of order was sustained, and it was too late in the session to resuscitate the bill. 

State Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, was manning the House speaker's desk Thursday when the reversal was announced, after the House had been standing at ease for about 30 minutes. Isaac said he had no idea it was coming, and had almost left for the day. 

"It caught me by complete surprise," he said. "It has just been a really rough day because of what happened yesterday. I have been in a bad mood all day thinking that the one issue that people sent me here to do for them, I couldn't get done."

The bill will now go to conference committee, where it will be worked out with a slightly tweaked version that passed in the Senate. 

"Today we are back on the battlefield," Isaac said. "It is not done yet, but we are back on the battlefield."

In a statement, Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, HB 3405's Senate sponsor, praised the efforts to revive the bill.

"The efforts of Hays County residents to protect the groundwater of property owners remains alive and well as a result of" the recent developments, Campbell said. "Thank you to Speaker Straus and Lt. Governor Patrick for their leadership and to Rep. Isaac for standing, fighting, and clawing with me up to the last second to keep this crucial bill alive for Hays County."

As he left the House floor Thursday evening, Isaac said he still didn't know why the point of order ruling had been reversed. 

"I'm going to go visit with the speaker's team and the parliamentarian, but I'm probably not going to ask why," he said. "I'm just going to say thanks."

Gonz├ílez, who has said she felt the legislation set a poor precedent and could harm rural communities, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Neena Satija and Jim Malewitz contributed to this report. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Flood and disaster relief for Hays and Blanco

Some locations are subject to change as the situation develops.

If you know anyone who needs the information, please pass along.

Hays County
1) Hays County Food Bank
The most needed items for disaster relief are high-protein canned meals with pop-top cans (ravioli, soups, spaghetti, tuna, salmon, chicken, beans, chili), single serving meals that do not require refrigeration or cooked/meals ready to eat, single serving snacks such as raisins, granola bars, and nuts, peanut butter, canned fruits/veggies.

Donate Food: Food donations are accepted until further notice at: 
  • 220 Herndon St, San Marcos
  • Cabela’s, 15570 S IH 35 Frontage Rd, Buda, TX 78610
  • Living Word Lutheran Church, 2315 Ranch Rd 967, Buda, TX 78610
  • Barton Middle School, 4950 Jack C. Hays Trail, Kyle, TX 78610
  • Broadway Bank, 320 E Hwy 290, Dripping Springs, TX 78620
  • Wallace Middle School, 1500 West Center, Kyle, TX 78640
  • Chapa Middle School, 3311 Dacy Lane, Kyle, TX 78640
  • Broadway Bank, 320 E Hwy 290, Dripping Springs, TX 78620
Donate Funds: Donate online NOW. Checks can be mailed to Hays County Food Bank, 220 Herndon Street, San Marcos, TX 78666

2) Legal Aid Hotline for Disaster Victims through Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
3) Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteer Centers are open San Marcos and Wimberley,

Wimberley Volunteer Reception Service:
Cypress Creek Church, 211 Stillwater, 8 a.m.-  5 p.m.

SM Volunteer Center (512.753.2320):
San Marcos Plaza Park, 206 C.M.Allen Parkway, 8 a.m. - 5 pm
Coordinated by City of San Marcos, Hays County, and AmeriCorps

The City and County have hundreds of people and organizations actively volunteering—we ask them to coordinate through our Volunteer Reception Centers so that their efforts may be as effective as possible. City, County and AmeriCorps are coordinating volunteers and organizations.

4) Call Center
A Call Center has been set up in San Marcos for county-wide, disaster-related questions at 512-754-2275

5) Large donations: If you have equipment or large donations, they can be delivered to:
Old Springtown Mall between 8-5 pm.
200 Springtown Way
San Marcos, TX 78666

6) More INFO  


Blanco County

1) Donations: please contact Connie Barron at Blanco City Hall at (830) 833-4525

2) The Blanco County Emergency Management Facebook page will be updated regularly by the Blanco County Emergency Management team:

3) If you have any questions regarding the flooding incident, have information to share, or would like to help, please send an email to:

4) Additional resources are as follows:
Blanco County Relief Facebook page 
The City of Blanco Facebook page
The County of Blanco 

Please go to the Blanco City Hall and register as a volunteer, find where to take donations and/or offer services.

The Blanco County Sheriff's Office is (830) 868-7104

Hays County officials testing well water samples

 KVUE 4:58 p.m. CDT May 27, 2015

 SAN MARCOS, Texas -- Individuals wishing to test their private well water after recent flooding can obtain a sample container and directions on sampling water from the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center in San Marcos.
Residents can bring samples back with fees and the sample will be tested for coliform within 24 to 48 hours.

Click on the links below for detailed information.

How to collect water samples:

How to disinfect your well:

Individuals can call the Edwards Aquifer Research and Data Center in the Aquatic Biology building, on Sessoms Drive, across from Salt Grass Steak House in San Marcos.  

They can obtain a sample container and directions to sample.  

They will bring their sample back with the appropriate fee and the sample will be tested for coliform within 24-48 hours.

The phone number is 512-245-2329.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Obama pledges federal help for Texas flood victims

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images
 President Obama pledged federal help Tuesday for search and rescue efforts associated with the extreme flooding in Texas.

"I will anticipate that there will be some significant requests made to Washington," Obama said after speaking with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. "My pledge to him is that we will expedite those requests."

Obama noted that are Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel already on the ground in Texas, and they will work with state authorities.

"I assured Gov. Abbott that he could count on the help of the federal government," Obama said.

Texas Flash Floods: 'This is the Worst Thing I've Ever Seen'

Tue, May 26

The small town of Wimberley, Texas is no stranger to flash floods, but even trees that stood through centuries were no match for this latest storm.

Click below to see the video from the NBC Nightly News 

At Least 19 Die After Storms in Texas and Oklahoma

A third body was found near the Blanco River in Texas Tuesday, bringing the death toll in that state and in Oklahoma to at least 19 after weekend storms dumped rain on the region and caused devastating floods.

Fourteen people are missing in Texas, including eight members of two families that were staying in a vacation home that was swept away by a tsunami-like "wall of water" that roared down the Blanco River in Wimberley over the weekend following a wave of torrential rain, Hays County Commissioner Will Conley said.

The National Weather Service said that more rain could be on the way for hard-hit parts of Texas, with a 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms for the Houston area through 1 a.m. Wednesday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and the communities that have been affected by some of these devastating, record-breaking floods," President Barack Obama said Tuesday. Obama pledged federal assistance to the region.

Search-and-rescue operations were continuing, on land and from air, across a landscape where centuries-old trees had been ripped away by the 44-foot storm surge. "It looks like a savannah," Conley said.

At least 12 people died in Texas, authorities said, including a 14-year-old boy in Desoto who was found in a storm drain, and Alyssa Ramirez, an 18-year-old homecoming queen whose car was swept off the road as she returned home from prom in Devine on Sunday, authorities said.

Four of the deaths in Texas were in Houston, the city's government said in a statement. One of the dead is believed to have been one of three people who are missing after being swept away when a boat capsized during a rescue effort, but that had not been confirmed by Tuesday night.

Texas official: Search and rescue in effect

By Tuesday afternoon three bodies have been found near the Blanco River in Hays and nearby Caldwell counties, which flooded over the weekend and swept away the home. Authorities said identification is pending, and described them as two men and one woman.

The missing in Hays County range from 4 to 81 years old, and were last seen in the area of the Blanco River, the Hays County Sheriff's Office said. Earlier Tuesday 13 people were reported missing in Hays County, but two of those were found safe, bringing the number down to 11, authorities said.

There have been seven weather-related deaths in Oklahoma since Friday, including a Claremore firefighter who died during a water rescue, and a 33-year-old woman who died in a storm-related traffic crash in Tulsa.

A 48-year-old woman in Oklahoma was killed Monday after a tornado struck Bryan County, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management said.

The floodwaters affected virtually every part of Houston and paralyzed some areas. Firefighters carried out more than 500 water rescues, most involving stranded motorists. At least 2,500 vehicles were abandoned by drivers seeking higher ground, officials said.

Texas Floods: Two Families Missing After Vacation Home Swept Away

"Given the magnitude and how quickly it happened, in such a short period of time, I've never seen this before," said Rick Flanagan, Houston's emergency management coordinator.
By Tuesday evening, all bayous and creeks except for a portion of the San Jacinto River returned to their banks after some areas of the Harris County was hit with up to 11 inches of rain, the Harris County Flood Control District said.

Power remained out for more than 25,000 customers in the Houston area by 8 p.m. Tuesday, down from a high of 88,000 outages early Tuesday morning, CenterPoint Energy said.
Seventy homes were destroyed in Hays County and another 1,400 properties were damaged. If not for a phone notification system, "God knows how many people we would have lost," Conley said.
In Houston, officials believe the number of severely damaged homes could reach 4,000.

There is the possibility of more showers for parts of southeast Texas, including Houston. Storms are expected to be scattered, but a cell could produce flash flooding in Houston if a storm forms over already-inundated areas, the NWS said.

Texas Officials: 44 Foot Wall of Water 'Destroyed Everything in its Path'

Houston Intercontinental Airport smashed its all-time record for most rainfall in one day on Monday — its 4.34 inches almost doubling the previous milestone set in 1946.
"The rain just kept coming, and coming, and coming," said Ashley Aivles, a 25-year-old call center worker who struggled to make it back to her home in a Houston suburb early Tuesday. 

All Houston MTERO rail and bus services were canceled until flood waters receded. Limited rail service resumed at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, and buses on major lines began running in the afternoon, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County said. 

Texas, Oklahoma and southwestern Kansas have been experiencing extreme drought conditions for the past five years. That left the soil "like concrete," which typically exacerbates flooding conditions, said Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska. 

But the latest round of flooding in Texas and Oklahoma can be attributed to sustained rainfall, including the equivalent of 12 to 16 inches above normal falling in the past 30 days, Svoboda said.
"The soil is too full. It's oversaturated with water," he said. "There's been too much, too soon, after you've had so little for such a long period of time." 

— with Erik Ortiz and Jon Schuppe
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Dear Hays County Neighbors, 

Thank you for your efforts to help move House Bill 3405 one step closer to the Governors desk and becoming law.  We need your help now to please write or call all 30 Senators and the Lt. Governor today (Tues. May 19th)!  
As always please be respectful and brief as this is a very busy time for the Senators and their staffs.  
 As expected, Sen. Charles Perry forced unacceptable amendments to HB3405 on Monday in his committee.  The good news is that the bill was passed out of committee and is beyond his meddling.  Now Senator Campbell needs your support so she can fix the bill before it is voted on by the whole Senate.  

The message tomorrow should be something like the following in your own words:

"I am a citizen of Hays County.  I support my senator, Donna Campbell, and her efforts to pass HB 3405 and SB1440 to protect my private property rights to my groundwater.  These bills deal with a local issue and I'm asking Sen. ________ to support Sen. Campbell's efforts to protect Hays County's interests."

There is really no reason to try to go into explanations or strategies that the other senators won't understand.  The message is simple.  Support Donna Campbell on a local issue.  That should be enough to get her the votes she needs to fix the bills. 
We are asking you to call or write all 30 Texas senators and the Lt. Governor:

Phone Email Twitter
Lt. Governor 

Dan Patrick 512-463-1001; @DanPatrick

Brian Birdwell 512-463-0122;   @SenatorBirdwell

512-463-0110 @KonniBurton
Konni Burton
Brandon Creighton 512-463-0104 @SenCreighton
Rodney Ellis 512-463-0113 @rodneyellis
Kevin Eltife 512-463-0101
Craig Estes 512-463-0130 @EstesForTexas
Troy Fraser 512-463-0124
Sylvia Garcia 512-463-0106 @SenatorSylvia
Bob Hall 512-463-0102
Kelly Hancock 512-463-0109 @KHancock4TX
Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa 512-463-0120 @TxChuy
Don Huffines 512-463-0116 @DonHuffines
Joan Huffman 512-463-0117 @joanhuffman
Lois Kolkhorst 512-463-0118 @loiskolkhorst
Eddie Lucio, Jr. 512-463-0127 @SenatorLucio
Jose Menendez 512-463-0126
Jane Nelson 512-463-0112 @SenJaneNelson
Robert Nichols 512-463-0103
Jose Rodriguez 512-463-0129 @Josefortexas
Charles Schwertner 512-463-0105 @DrSchwertner
Kel Seliger 512-463-0131 @kseliger
Larry Taylor 512-463-0111 @Taylor4Senate
Van Taylor 512-463-0108 @VanTaylorTX
Carlos Uresti 512-463-0119 @CarlosUresti
Kirk Watson 512-463-0114 @KirkPWatson
Royce West 512-463-0123 @SenRoyceWest
John Whitmire 512-463-0115 @whitemire_john
Judith Zaffirini 512-463-0121 @JudithZaffirini

PLEASE CALL OR SEND EMAILS THIS WEEK!  and Representative Jason Issac for their leadership and cooperation to reconcile HB 3405 and SB 1440. This local legislation needs to ensure there will be no grandfathering and that the final bill will provide the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District with the necessary authority to protect your private property rights, groundwater wells and local springs that feed our creeks and rivers.

Many Thanks!